Note: This was originally published on HackerNoon and written in 2019..
Anthony Bourdain taught us there is no better way to explore a place than through people and food. I traveled to Medellín, Colombia, both to explore for a week on vacation and then to immerse myself in daily life while working remotely as the creator of Coinverse, the first cryptocurrency news audiocast app.
Despite eating mostly vegetables and protein, it is important to experience the local cuisine. Most of my research was compiled at 3 A.M., thanks to the au pair in the adjacent seat on my red-eye who was also unable to sleep.
- Bandeja Paisa
- Arepa Paisa
- Hot dogs
They have a major difference from the Mexican variety, made from corn instead of flour, theoretically healthier if not deep-fried. Empanadas are available everywhere. The ones below came recommended by Empanadas Envigadeñas.
Sopa de Mondongo is moreso a hardy meal. I believed I was having chicken but later discovered that it was more ‘exotic’, the stomach of a cow or pig.
Here are places to check out for classic stews.
“Hot dogs” is an understatement. Nothing about the Perro Malvada Pequeña was pequeña. After some cerveza and tasting Aguardiente (the national tequila), this was a fine idea. Alone and overwhelmed with the menu, I rolled the dice and told them I’d have what the person in front of me was having. This puts the Philly Cheesesteak to shame. Towards the weekend, this food stand is open at the intersection of Carrera 43A and Calle 7D.
I prefer chocolate with high amounts of cacao, which Medellín is known for. Below are a few of my favorite cacao-rich chocolates.
1. Lok, bought at Cacao Brunch, from Arauca. This is exactly what I had been looking for, pure 100% cacao. It contains an initial bitter punch, then a dark, smooth, and rich aftertaste. I bought sweeter chocolates for gifts and stocked up on Lok for myself.
2. Tilín Tilín, bought at Tilín Tilín Chocolate Factory, from Tumaco. This is my favorite gift for others. Each variety has a distinct flavor. Rooibos is one of my favorite teas containing sweetness, making the 69% cacao Rooibos & Roses bar my top pick. Rooibos & Roses provides instant sweetness with a hint of tart.
Pro-tip, the longer you talk with the chocolate tender, the more free samples you’ll be rewarded.
3. Tibitó, bought at Cacao brunch, from Meta, Putumayo, Tumaco, and Arauca. All four are smooth and creamy, tasting similar to milk chocolate. I could not identify major flavor differences between each.
5. Moctezuma, bought at Fruta Provenza, from Guatapé. This has a homemade feel, loosely wrapped in tin foil within the box. It was good, but it had no distinct flavor due to the overpowering of sweet jam at the bottom.
The store Fruta Provenza is fantastic, selling healthy food not found at most grocery stores. During my chocolate haul, I made an impulse purchase of almond flour baked bread.
6. Kalu, bought at Fruta Provenza, from Pereira. The flavor was mild and chocolate fairly smooth, but nothing stood out from the peanuts, raisins, blueberries, and coconut.
7. Jet, bought at any grocery store, from Rionegro. I could not find dark chocolate, but had to try the milk chocolate. It’s a classic from 1920, and what you’d expect from a standard milk chocolate without the depth of a Tilin Tilin or Tibitó.
I could not find the following which have stores in Bogotá.
See 7 Colombian Chocolate Brands You Need to Know About by CultureTrip
The best cacao was at a private cacao ceremony I attended. Check with your health professional before trying as this cacao affects blood pressure. My roommates planned this experience, and I enthusiastically joined.
I only heard of cacao ceremonies at yoga studios and through a 2016 story of Berlin clubbers having cacao instead of alcohol and drugs. I envisioned sipping the hot drink in a relaxed setting, which it was, but it was also much more.
The master of ceremony was a nice woman named Sandy, who had studied these types of ceremonies throughout Latin and South America for many years. She informed us this ritual has been shared for thousands of years by the people across the Americas.
Before European conquests, cacao was used as currency and sacred medicine. Ceremonial cacao has a strict and specific selection process compared to store-bought cacao.
Beginning the first cup, I was warned to take my time. A few sips in, and I felt a strong sensation in the top left of my chest where a large vein was. I slowly continued feeling a strong yet relaxed buzz spread to my head and the rest of my body. The final effect was mental clarity and relaxation without any caffeine jitters.
See What is a cacao ceremony? by USA Today